Just yesterday my partner and I hit a snafu: Our bank had not paid our homeowners insurance, resulting in a panic-inducing email titled “your policy has expired.” Adulting in overdrive ensued.
The bank’s call center was a byzantine maze of pre-recorded messages, and it took three calls just to navigate it to the point of talking to a human being. Just when I was contemplating slamming my phone onto the pavement, I finally reached a person. A person who was clearly chagrined that I’d made it through the labyrinth undeterred. What a grump.
Not finding any help there, I then called my insurance company, which connected me directly to a person — a real, live person! — who cheerfully told me she’d contact my bank, sort out the mess, and call me back. And she did.
It was glorious.
This, friends, is why customer service, and in particular automation, has earned such a loathsome reputation.
Customers don’t want to be pitched from bot to bot, like projectiles in a pinball machine.
That doesn’t make us feel like valued customers. That doesn’t make us want to work with the company again, if we have any other choice. And forget about recommending the company to anyone else (at least, anyone we like).
But what if we could change that paradigm? What if we could create automation that was intelligent enough to give us the answers we need, and send us, quickly and efficiently, to the very best human agent capable of solving our problems?
This is the future I see as imminently possible, at least if we use automation intelligently to create more positive, relevant, and enjoyable user experiences.
Forget bots for a moment — let’s talk about people
For automation to be an integral, genuinely helpful, part of customer support (and customer success — we’ll get there), the customer support process needs to be grounded in a basic understanding of what humans need to be happy — and what customers need to be successful.
The first thing to know is: Every problem is emotional.
We tend to take people at their word. They tell us the problem; we logically try to fix it. But, whatever they say the problem is, and however logical the solution, there is always an emotional component. We’re human; emotions are part of everything we do.
When neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people who had sustained brain damage to areas of the brain that generate emotions, he found that the subjects were unable to make even the smallest of decisions. Their logic and reasoning abilities were fully functional, but if they were asked to choose between pasta and risotto for dinner, they couldn’t do it. They couldn’t feel one way or another.
The conclusion: Almost every decision is an emotional one.
What this means for customer service is huge:
If your customer service interaction produces positive emotions, you have the power to generate positive decisions.
Think: making sales, upsells, generating referral traffic — you basically turn customer service into a marketing, sales and retention engine.
All of that potential income is what’s at stake in every customer interaction.
Not sure emotion holds that much purchase power?
A study out of Missouri University of Science and Technology reported that “consumers’ emotional responses” while on e-commerce websites were predictive of purchases. It might seem obvious, but they essentially proved that we buy from stores we enjoy. And there’s no better place to create a joyful experience than customer service.
“Positive experience is the start of a positive association, which builds upon itself over time. One transaction or interchange turns into a relationship. Zappos, Wistia, and MailChimp are three companies that have a business approach which accentuates the positive, and, as a result, their customers are both passionate and loyal.” — Walter Chen, co-founder of iDoneThis, for Kissmetrics
Eliminate Pain Points
So how do you create positive emotional experiences? First of all, don’t add to the customer’s pain by forcing them to run the gauntlet of automated options they neither need nor want.
Pain is emotional, and reducing the pain your customers feel will go a long way towards creating a positive experience. Just think how happy I was to find a HUMAN BEING on my first try with my insurance company!
The worst pain is caused by a-thousand-cuts annoyances, and when you can relieve those small irritations, the customer’s experience will be more positive — and studies show those positive experiences are directly linked to customer loyalty and repeat purchases.